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Sunday, September 18, 2016

1st Look at Arrow Season 5's New Heroes

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As Arrow barrels towards both us and what might well be its final season, the pressure is mounting for CW’s original superhero show to deliver something truly new and dynamic for its fifth season.  That pressure has been there for Arrow pretty much ever since its spin-off The Flash started pulling in a larger audience and revamped the entire superhero television tone in late 2014 but Arrow is really feeling the burn this year.  

After a magic-centric 4th season didn’t really shake loose any new viewers, this new season features Green Arrow putting together a new team of vigilantes inspired by his deeds to protect Star City.  We’ve been getting the casting news all summer but now, thanks to some behind the scenes pics and a new trailer, we have our first new look at team Arrow 2.0. 

So that’s team Arrow, they’re certainly different.  Okay, that’s mean, though not entirely undeserved.  Arrow has always labored under the yoke of its own dedication to gritty realism, struggling to survive in the world of fanciful stories and multi-hero supporting casts that sister shows The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow helped popularize.  

Arrow may have set the superhero tone in 2012 but it’s been a long time since Oliver and company were the taste makers of this particular genre and you can see the show straining to stay true to its stripped down, Nolan-inspired, gritty roots while adding in more outlandish elements to try and keep up with a world that passed it by. 

Given that, it’s not necessarily surprising that the new team Arrow looks less than stellar it’s just a little disappointing.  There are some standouts, most particularly Wild Dog though I’m far from at ease about his inclusion in the show.  He’s more or less a direct translation of his comic costume, complete with the hockey mask and lovably doofy sports jersey.  

I actually quite like the translation as it sticks with what makes Wild Dog a unique character- the fact that his bumbling incompetence makes him more of a self-aware take on the Punisher than if he was just a straight forward killer vigilante.  There’s still no way to tell if Rick Gonzalez’ portrayal will stick with the comic version or adopt a more serious approach, though even if they do try and make him a stereotypical bad-ass it’ll probably clash hard with his considerably comedic visual design. 

Additionally, we got our first decent look at Mr. Terrific, played by Echo Kellum and named Curtis Holt in this iteration.  While it seems like Terrific will have a pretty comics accurate costume he’s one of the characters I’m a little less enthused about.  Much like Wild Dog, Mr. Terrific is one of my favorite comic heroes (like a lot of the new heroes on Arrow actually,) but it really doesn’t seem like the comic character is being adapted here.  

In the books Mr. Terrific is the third smartest man in the year, an ex-tech billionaire and superb athlete with the super power of being invisible to technology and super advanced T-spheres that are like little mobile computers.  Arrow’s take on the character seems a lot more bumbling, with less of the competence and skill that made the original Mr. Terrific such a treasure.  Just for comparison, comic book Mr. Terrific ended up running the Justice Society and later took over the DC universe’s version of SHIELD- big step down from that to being unable to keep up with Wild Dog. 

We also got a pretty good look at Evelyn Sharp taking on the identity of Artemis.  If you ever wondered why it took comic book continuity somewhere around 30 years to transition to the big screen characters like Artemis are the reason why.  There have been a ton of different folks who’ve claimed the Artemis name on all sides of the hero/villain divide, a point that ends up even more confused by the character’s new most popular version coming from the animated series Young Justice.  

The Young Justice Artemis seems to be, for all intents and purposes, the version of the character we’re getting on Arrow season 5.  I’m on record as not really caring for Young Justice so I’m more apathetic than anything else towards this choice, though her costume re-design is definitely the harshest of the bunch.  The spray paint mask is most reminiscent of Smallville’s Black Canary re-design, which I don’t think anyone really wanted to see revisited. 

Finally, seen incredibly briefly but still appearing in this line-up, is Ragman, who looks perfectly ridiculous.  I get the sense Ragman is probably one of those characters like Doctor Doom, Green Goblin, or The Thing that just can’t visually translate from illustration to live action because his suit of rags looks goofy as all hell here. 

What’s more, I get the distinct impression from his silly design and how little we’ve seen him anywhere else this Ragman won’t be a mystically powered avatar of Jewish justice, which really hits me where I live.  A lot of my love for Ragman comes from him being one of the only Jewish superheroes and how much his Judaism informs his entire ethos, so to have that completely expunged from his character would really suck.  Fingers crossed he doesn’t end up the new hero that gets killed off to show how serious the situation is. 

So what’ve we learned from all this?  I’d have to say my big takeaway is that it’s probably passed time for CW to just let Arrow finally end.  I understand there’s an issue of seniority and if the ratings are still holding I’m sure it seems like it makes sense to keep the show around but it’s hard to argue things are improving. 

The series commitment to its original aesthetic and inability to move beyond its grungy muted color palette and cripplingly awkwardness over its own premise do nothing but hold the series back.  I mean; the show’s biggest contributions to CW canon and success right now are just introducing heroes who were more interesting on other shows like the Atom or Vixen.  If that’s all the CW really wants from Arrow’s timeslot surely there’s a better way to get it but hey, maybe this season will prove me wrong- I certainly hope so. 

Arrow season 5 premieres October 5, 2016

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